Yes, I know I’m always banging on about passwords

Username and password theftThe simple fact is that this issue causes more problems than any other for my IT support clients. Therefore, I can’t resist telling you about something that happened a few weeks ago that offers yet another reason why you really shouldn’t use passwords more than once.

I received a phone call from a client saying that she’d just had a nasty email from someone saying that they had managed to access her Mac and, to prove it, they told her the password to get into her Mac. The email said they had stolen contact information, personal files, etc. I won’t describe what they said they were going to do next, but the bottom line was that they wanted about £3000 not to go ahead and do it.

Luckily, my client is a level-headed person who knew that a lot of what they said couldn’t be true. However, she was still – quite rightly – concerned about the accessing of her computer and asked me what to do. Since I was completely tied up with another client at the time I couldn’t give it detailed thought at that moment, so I advised her to contact the police and her bank and that I’d get back to her later.

The police said that it was a scam (ie, there was no real threat – they were just trying to “con” money out of her as opposed to extorting it). However, the police didn’t tell her how it was done.

ScamWhen I got a chance to look at the email itself later on, it seemed to me that absolutely everything in the email – except one fact – could be explained by saying that this was just a scam (that they were bluffing, lying, and hadn’t managed to get into her computer at all). The one inconvenient fact that didn’t fit this explanation was that they knew the Administrator’s password for her Mac. If they knew that, then there was a possibility that they could have accessed her Mac. That was why I had advised her to contact the police and her bank.

And then it struck me that the email address they used wasn’t her normal one, so maybe that was a clue. Maybe the combination of that email address and password had been used by her in another context and that that combination had become known to the bad person.

So, I checked to see if she had been “pwned”. This is when data is stolen in a data breach. You can check to see if your email address has been involved in a data breach by visiting “Have I Been Pwned?“. Sure enough, her email address and LinkedIn password had been stolen many years before in that organisation’s huge loss of data. Wikipaedia says of that data breach:

The social networking website LinkedIn was hacked on June 5, 2012, and passwords for nearly 6.5 million user accounts were stolen by Russian cybercriminals. Owners of the hacked accounts were no longer able to access their accounts, and the website repeatedly encouraged its users to change their passwords after the incident.

PwnedMy client did seem to remember being told of that data breach and undoubtedly did as LinkedIn suggested and changed her password. I asked her if she knew what the old password was and she couldn’t remember. Crucially, though, she said that it COULD have been the same password that she is now using (or was using until a few weeks ago!) as the administrator’s password on her Mac. What is almost certain is that her email address, together with that password, are up for sale on the Dark Net.

So, we concluded that what had probably happened is that the putative blackmailer bought her email address and LinkedIn password (probably on the Dark Net) and then just emailed her, assuming that the password for her Linked In account was the same as the password for her Mac. And he was right, so the scam worked (up to a point – but he certainly didn’t get any money from her). He managed to mis-direct us into thinking that he’d gained access to her computer when, in fact, he hadn’t.

This scam can only work if people re-use passwords and if they don’t keep a record of what passwords they used, when, and for what. Had my client not re-used passwords, and had she kept such records, she would have been able to tell that the password he claimed was her Mac’s password, was, in fact, an old password stolen in a data breach and not related to her Mac at all. The whole thing would then have been immediately obvious as a scam.

I rest my case (for now).

Ctrl alt delete keys

We Windows users have long been used to the “three-fingered salute” of Ctrl-Alt-Del when we want to close a frozen program

So what’s the equivalent for a Mac? The quick option is known as “force quitting” and the options are as follows:

To force quit a single program

  • Click on the Apple (top lefthand corner)
  • Click on Force Quit
  • Highlight the relevant program
  • Click on Force Quit


  • From the keyboard, use the shortcut of simultaneously pressing Cmd-Option-Esc
  • Highlight the relevant program
  • Click on Force Quit

To Force Quit several programs at once (or even all the open programs):

  • Click on the Apple (top lefthand corner)
  • Click on Force Quit
  • Depress the Cmd key and, while it is still pressed, click on all the programs to be closed
  • Click on Force Quit


  • From the keyboard, use the shortcut of simultaneously pressing Cmd-Option-Esc
  • Depress the Cmd key and, while it is still pressed, click on all the programs to be closed
  • Click on Force Quit

To force quit a program using the Mac’s dock:

  • Right-click on the program’s icon in the dock
  • Depress the option key (the option to “quit” will now change to “force quit”)
  • Click on “Force Quit”

And what if “right-clicking” does nothing?

I have often been surprised by Mac users being able to use their computers efficiently without having “right-click” enabled. This is probably just because I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Windows user for decades. On all Windows computers, we just take it for granted that right-clicking will bring up a “context menu”. Not surprsingly, a context menu is a menu whose contents depend on the current context. The only options that will be presented are those that make sense depending on where your cursor was when you right-clicked.

Mac - two-fingered tapOn a Mac, right-clicking (or “Secondary clicking”) might work by default and it might not. The way to access a context menu if clicking on the right button of your mouse doesn’t work (or if your mouse doesn’t even have a right button) is by depressing the “Ctrl” key at the same time as clicking the left (or only) mouse button. This has always struck me as being a bit ungainly (a bit like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time).

If you are using a trackpad instead of a mouse, then tapping with two fingers on the trackpad may conjure up a context menu. If it doesn’t, then you need to go into the “trackpad” option of System Preferences as described below. Alternatively, if you’ve ever used the right-click of a mouse to open a context menu then you may find it more intuitive to set up the trackpad to invoke a context menu when tapping on the bottom righthand corner of the trackpad instead.

Setting up a trackpad to invoke a context menu is achieved as follows (see illustration):

  • Click on the Apple (top lefthand corner)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Trackpad”
  • Click on the “Point & Click” tab
  • Tick the box next to “Secondary Click”
  • Click the “v” next to the current choice for Secondary Click and click against the desired option
  • Click on the red circle to close the window

Mac - setting up a secondary click

By the way, closing a program in Windows is achieved via the “Task Manager” (invoked with Ctrl-Alt-Del). “Force quitting” is the quick way to despatch an errant program on a Mac, but Mac OS does have its own equivalent of the “Task Manager”. It’s called the “Activity Monitor”. You can get at it via Finder by going to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.

Help! My screen’s turned upside down!

Yoga and LaptopYou probably won’t find this blog of use today (unless you are an office wag – see below), but if ever you see that the contents of your screen have turned upside down (or sideways for that matter), then just remember that you read about it here. You can then just visit and use the search facility on any web or blog page to find “inverted screen”. That should find this blog post for you.

Probably once or twice a year I get a panic phone call from a computer support client saying that they can’t understand what’s happened, but their screen has turned upside down. When this happened just a few weeks ago I facetiously suggested to the client that he might like to stand on his head to use the computer. He replied that he had thought about it, but he would need his arms and hands for support so wouldn’t be able to use the keyboard or mouse. That makes sense, so here is the more appropriate solution.

It happens from time to time that a user types a combination of keys accidentally that have unintended consequences. Since, by definition, it happened by accident, there isn’t any way of relating the action to the consequences so the solution to the problem – typing the same or similar combination of keys – doesn’t occur to the perplexed (and even panicky) victim.

This can happen on both Macs and on Windows PCs. I’ll leave it to you to work out why it isn’t a problem with tablets and smartphones.

Cursor Direction Keys

The two sets of cursor direction keys on my Samsung laptop

Windows PCs

The orientation of the screen contents is changed by depressing the Ctrl (“control”) key and the Alt key at the same time and then, while these are depressed, hitting one of the “cursor direction” keys. Some keyboards have two sets of cursor direction keys. In such cases, there will probably be one set of keys dedicated to the direction function (ie there will be nothing else on the key tops) and one set will probably share the function with the numeric keypad (ie the number keys towards the righthand side of the keyboard (not the number keys near the top of the keyboard)). In such cases, trial and error will show which set of cursor direction keys you need. On the Samsung laptop I’m using at the moment, it’s the “dedicated” cursor direction keys that do the trick.


I don’t think anyone’s ever appealed to me for help with this problem on a Mac and maybe it’s not so easy to do it by accident. Nevertheless, it is possible to change the orientation of screen content on a Mac so let’s cover it here. To change the orientation:

  • Depress the Cmd and Option keys at the same time and keep both keys down
  • Go to System Preferences (by clicking on the apple at the top left and then left-clicking on the System Preferences option)
  • Click on “Displays”
  • You will now see the Displays options exactly as you would have done without the digital gymnastics of holding down keys at the same time, except that there will be a new option that you don’t normally see – “Rotation”. You can now let go of the other keys and simply click on the up/down arrows next to that option to reveal the four orientation options. The normal one is called “standard”
  • Close the Displays window in the usual way

Normal Mac Display Options Window

The normal window with Mac Display options does not show the option to change the screen’s orientation

Mac Display options with rotation

The Mac Display options window including options for rotating the screen’s contents

Even if it’s not possible (or, at least, it’s very, very difficult) to turn your screen over by accident on a Mac, it’s worth knowing about these techniques as the world is full of office wags who think that turning someone’s screen over when they’ve left their desk for a minute is rather a jolly jape.

And if you are such an office wag, don’t blame me if you get a biff on the nose for playing a trick that you just learned here!

I’m still struggling to like Apple Macs and here’s one reason why

Heathrow Airport

A real airport

One of the many things I find irritating about Macs is that Apple have an annoying habit of giving things completely stupid names. Take the “Airport”, for instance. Now an airport used to be one of those big sprawling places where aeroplanes take off and land. So what possessed Apple to name its wifi devices “airports”? It really makes you think of a marketing meeting, full of smarty pants execs in their 20’s, all trying to outdo each other. “I know”, says one, “we are transmitting (porting) stuff via the air, so instead of calling it a WiFi device let’s call it an airport”. “Yea, cool” – not. Technology is confusing enough already, without confusing us even further with such nonsense.

Apple Airport

Apple’s idea of an airport. Spot the difference

Another example is “stationery pad”. Actually, this one’s not quite as bad, but there are other, more prosaic and accurate, names that could have been used. The pity is that this silly name hides a useful feature in Macs.

We often need to create a new document (word processing, spreadsheet, whatever) based upon one that exists already and we don’t want to replace the old one: just start a new one that’s based on the old one.

The “normal” way of doing this is to open the old one (the template), and then to save it with a different name,thereby preserving the template unchanged. It’s easy, though, to forget to change the name, so your template gets changed.

Now, the clever feature in Macs (cunningly hidden by a stupid name) is that if you right-click on a file and then left-click on “get info”, you will find an option called “stationery pad” with a tick box next to it. If you click in this box, the file becomes a “stationery pad” (or, as normal people would call it, a “template”). Henceforth, if you double-click on this file then it won’t open. Instead, a copy of it will open (together with a default name – eg “fred.copy.docx”) that you can rename later if you wish.

Stationery Pads

Real stationery pads

OK, I agree that this name isn’t quite as stupid as “airport”. Even my poor imagination can conjure up a pad of preprinted template sheets that could just about be called a “stationery pad”. Nevertheless, I’m sure that more people would have stumbled on this useful feature if it had just been called something sensible – like “template” for instance.

Stationery Pad Option

“Stationery pad” as used by Apple. Fred,docx is now a template

And just in case I nearly lost you earlier by referring to a “right-click” when using a Mac, it’s always surprised me how many Mac users have never realised that you can enable a right-click on a Mac mouse and/or trackpad by going into the Mouse/Trackpad options of “System Preferences”.

Have you ever downloaded a new program onto your Mac, only to be told by the operating system that it can’t be opened because it’s from an unidentified developer?

Gatekeeper LogoMac OSX computers are more protective than Windows computers when it comes to what’s allowed on your computer and that has obvious security benefits. Nevertheless, it looks rather over-protective when it won’t let you start a program that you want to run!

This situation comes about when you try to run a program (or “app” or “application”) that hasn’t been vetted by Apple and checked to be malware-free. I don’t understand why Apple choose to offer you the misleading information that the “app can’t be opened” because it can. All you need to do is to have the control key pressed as you click on the program to open it.

Here is an example of the “error” message:

Gatekeeper Message

Once you have opened a program this way, the operating system will add it to the list of approved programs on that computer, so it shouldn’t happen again for that program.

If you encounter this situation often, and/or can never remember how to over-ride the veto on opening a program, then you can change the settings so that the message is not displayed at all. This is probably not a particularly good idea as it would be much easier to install software that has malware in it if your system is not even asking you to think about whether the program is safe.

However, if you do want to go ahead and change the settings for ever:

  • Click on the Apple logo (top left of any screen)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Security & Privacy”
  • If the padlock at the bottom left of the window is locked, click on it and enter the administrator’s password for the logged on user
  • Click on either the second or third “radio button” in the list headed “allow apps downloaded from:”
  • Click on the padlock again to lock it
  • Close all dialog boxes

This security feature in Mac OSX is called Gatekeeper. It has been around in Macs since the Mountain Lion version. You can learn more about it by clicking on the link to Gatekeeper.

By the way, there was a time when I was naive enough to think I may be able to offer any instructions like those above for all the different versions of operating systems. I can’t. There are far too many versions. So, whether we are talking about Macs or PCs, I will only offer details for the current version. At the moment, that is Windows 10 or Mac OSX El Capitan.

TeamViewer logoIt used to be that I tried to keep old laptops around that were loaded with different operating systems so that I could check on differences and offer telephone support to clients using older systems. Luckily, that requirement has almost completely disappeared since I started using Teamviewer to remotely support clients by actually seeing what they can see on their own computers. This is much, much less stressful than providing computer support and advice by a phone call alone and trying to keep track of what the client is looking at.

Why might you want a bluetooth mouse?

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth-LogoBluetooth is a wireless radio technology for communicating over short distances using short-length UHF radio waves. It’s often used between portable and fixed devices. Examples include:

  • Telephone headsets for mobile phones
  • Headphones for music systems
  • Keyboards & mice and their computer

There are three classes of Bluetooth communication:

  • Class 1 has a range of about 100 metres
  • Class 2 has a range of about 10 metres
  • Class 3 has a range of about 1 metre

Both ends of the intended communication need to be equipped with bluetooth technology.

Why use Bluetooth rather than a normal wireless mouse with a dongle?

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Almost all wireless mice communicate with the computer via radio signals that pass between the device (the mouse) and a receiver (often called a “dongle”) that fits into any USB port on your computer. These are extremely reliable. Bluetooth, on the other hand, usually communicates between the device (the mouse) and a bluetooth receiver built into the computer (although you can also buy bluetooth dongles that fit to a USB port). From personal experience, I would say that bluetooth is a more precarious method of communication. First of all you have to “pair” the devices (ie give them permission to communicate with each other) and then you have to keep your fingers crossed that they continue to talk to each other.

The potential benefits of a bluetooth mouse seem to me to be twofold:

  • You don’t need to keep plugging and unplugging a receiver (dongle) into your computer. This could be significant if, like me, you carry a laptop around most working days and may need to connect and disconnect the mouse three or four times a day. It’s not just taking out the dongle, it’s remembering to open up the mouse and stash the dongle safely inside it (or any other place that you’ll be able to reliably put your hands on it). The alternative is to leave the dongle in the laptop, but then you have to remember to always put the laptop away the right way up because you wouldn’t want a significant part of the weight of the laptop resting on a USB dongle.
  • A bluetooth device doesn’t take up a USB port (usually. You would probably only use a bluetooth USB dongle if your device required bluetooth but your computer didn’t have an inbuilt bluetooth receiver/transmitter). This is the real reason I embarked on my mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse. The Microsoft Surface only has one USB port. It really is a pain having to swap between a mouse dongle, a USB flash drive, an external drive, etc. It’s not just the swapping, it’s the constant aggravation with the mouse that no longer works (natch – you’ve just disconnected it!). The new MacBook also has only one USB port (or, more accurately a USB-C port). The MacBook Air has a slightly more generous 2 USB ports, but not taking up one of them with a mouse could still be advantageous.

My mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse has, I hope, finally come to an end. I found a Sandstrom bluetooth/USB mouse in PC World for the reasonable price of £14.99. The fact that it’s also got the standard dongle is great, because I know I could immediately use it on a computer support client’s computer without any messing about with “pairing” etc. In the meantime, the bluetooth connection has been working perfectly with my Microsoft Surface.

Apple Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse

If you are a Mac person, then you’ll probably already know of the Apple Magic Mouse. Sadly, I know I’m not the only person to find that this mouse becomes “disconnected” far too often for a mouse that costs over £50. I don’t know if it’s the mouse or the Mac’s bluetooth receiver (the keyboard disconnects in the same way), but I eventually re-purposed my Magic Mouse (as a paperweight) and bought a less pretty but more functional Logitech mouse for my Mac Mini.

Anyway, there you have it. If you are suffering from having fewer USB ports than you would like, or are fed up with connecting and disconnecting a mouse’s dongle, then it might be worth a £15 punt on a bluetooth mouse.

I’ve written previously about the useful free program called Gadwin PrintScreen that I use to “grab” a copy of either the whole screen or part of the screen. In fact, it’s the utility that I use to grab the bits of screens that I often use to illustrate these blog posts.

Since I’m now trying to make more use of my MacBook Pro, I have found several times recently that I wish Gadwin had a Mac version – they don’t. However, I have come across a similar utility that certainly seems easier than trying to remember the Mac shortcut keys that capture all or part of a screen (and which, incidentally, don’t need the fingers of a concert pianist to execute).

This little gem is called DuckLink Screen Capture. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.

So, now I have the ability to capture screens from any proper computer, but I often find that I want the captured image on a different machine from the source machine. Dropbox to the rescue…

I have a folder in my Dropbox called “Screencaps” (natch). It is easy enough to configure both Gadwin and DuckLink to save the captured screen images in a specific folder – in this case, the Screencaps folder in my Dropbox (which is present on all machines, of course, as that’s the point of Dropbox). Et voila, all my screen captures – from all computers – are now available on all machines and I don’t have to remember anything complicated about where I should save them, what I should call them, or anything like that.

As well as configuring the capture software to direct its output to the correct folder, it’s also possible to specify a naming convention for the files that will be created. I take advantage of this to start each filename with the name of the machine that originated the capture and then to add the date and time.

To configure Gadwin to place the screen captures in the right place and with the right name:

  • Right-click on the taskbar icon (it’s a small camera)
  • Left-click on “Show Options”
  • Left-click on the option to the left that says “Post Capture Actions”
  • Configure Capture Folder and File Name Template (there’s some help in naming the capture file at the bottom of the window (not shown in the accompanying image))
Gadwin Options

Gadwin Options

To configure DuckLink Screen Capture to place the screen captures in the right place and with the right name:

  • Click on the icon on the top row of the screen (again, it’s a camera – this time on a green background)
  • Left-click on the option to Show Main Window
  • Left-click on Advanced Options
  • Left-click on Output File tab
  • Configure folder and filename
DuckLink Options

DuckLink Options

There’s a tiny flaw (it’s not really a bug as they do warn you about it) in the DuckLink filenaming in that you can’t use a letter in a filename that’s already reserved for something else. For example, I tried to start my filenames with “MacBook”, but it saved the file with “03acBook” at the beginning as it interpreted the “M” as meaning “month number”. Doh! That’s why I chose “Apple” instead as the beginning of the filename.

Screen Capture File Listing

A listing of screen capture files in my Dropbox Screencaps folder. Note the two entries starting with “03”, before I realised that DuckLink was interpreting the “M” in “Macbook” as “M for month”.

Finding a particular screen capture later on is made even easier since I use FastStone Image Viewer to view the image capture files and it’s very easy in this program to add “favourite” folders that are easily accessible from the menu bar. So, I’ve added the Screencaps folder as a favourite. If I’m looking at the Screencaps contents on the Mac, I haven’t yet found the perfect viewing program so I’m using the inbuilt “preview” program for now.

So, with the help of three or four free programs (Dropbox, Faststone Image Viewer, DuckLink Screen Capture, and Gadwin ScreenPrint), it’s possible to tame the business of capturing and retrieving screen images on lots of machines on the same local network, even if you have a mixture of PCs and Macs.

What does File Quarantine do for you on your Mac?

File Quarantine WarningWhen you attempt to open a file from the internet using Safari, or from an attachment to an email in the Mail program, the operating system will pop up a window warning you that the file comes from the internet and ask whether you really do want to open it. After you’ve seen this message a few times relating to different downloads it’s tempting to start thinking that the operating system is being a bit of a nanny and trying to save you from yourself (which, of course, you don’t need as you’re a perfectly rational person capable of making your own mind up).

However, this is not the only job that Mac’s File Quarantine does. When you come to open the file, It also checks the file to see if contains any known malware. Both of those words are important:

  • Known – as with all security programs on computers, there is always a small chance that something nasty is roaming around cyberspace and lands on your computer before the program that should check for it has become aware of it.
  • Malware – File Quarantine is not looking for computer viruses and it’s not looking for Adware (programs that pop adverts up at you).

Hellraiser warning

Figure 2. Malware has been detected

If File Quarantine does detect malware then it will display the dialog box shown in figure 2. Since you have already got the file in your system, you should respond by clicking on the “Move to trash” button. Clicking on the “Cancel” button will cancel your attempt to open the file, but it will still be left on your system. If the file is a “disk image” rather than a normal file then the options will be to “Cancel” or “Eject Disc Image”. Click on the latter option.

You can read more about File Quarantine at this Apple web page.

If you decide that File Quarantine is just nannying you and annoying you, then you can actually turn it off. This is achieved by opening a window in Terminal, entering the following command, and then re-booting the machine:

defaults write LSQuarantine -boo1 NO

To turn File Quarantine back on, just repeat the command, but type “YES” instead of “NO”.

Having pointed that out (and you can read a bit more about it at Mactips), I don’t recommend turning File Quarantine off. As long as you have a fairly recent version of Mac OSX the popup window only happens the first time you open something downloaded from the internet. I think it’s worth having to click through that one window in order to keep the benefits of having OXS check for known malware.

AdwareMedic logoAs mentioned above, File Quarantine will not prevent the lesser threats posed by Adware getting onto your computer. In the world of Windows PCs, I recommend Malwarebytes and Spybot to clean a machine of known threats. In the world of Macs it’s a bit piecemeal. To add to the protection offered by File Quarantine, you can download and run a free program called AdwareMedic.

It’s very simple to download and run AdwareMedic and it should only take it a minute or so to check your system. See figure 4 for a results screen when I ran it on my MacBook Pro. I’d never seen any evidence of Adware on the Mac, but it’s still good to know that something unpleasant has been removed.

Adware found

Figure 4. AdwareMedic found this piece of adware on my MacBook Pro

If you still think you have an adware problem after running AdwareMedic then visit this AdwareMedic page for further advice. The suggestions on that page are largely concerned with problems that you think may be adware but which are, in fact, something else (such as your browser Home Page or your chosen Search Engine having been changed).

Is Apple trying to drive us mad?

If you’ve got an iPhone and at least one other Apple toy, such as an iPad or a Mac, then you may have noticed recently that when your phone rings there’s a cacophony of sound emanating from all your Apple goodies.

This is a feature of the new Mac Yosemite operating system signed in with the same Apple ID as an iPhone running IOS 8 and/or an iPad signed in with the same Apple ID as an IOS 8 iPhone.

So, your phone rings and then your Mac and iPad ring as well. You can then answer the call on your Mac or iPad (using the inbuilt speakers and microphone). The question I must ask myself is “why?”

Maybe you like this feature or maybe, like me, you think your Apple technology is coming on a bit un-necessary. I can just imagine some smarty-pants at Apple saying “ooh, look what we can do” (to which, of course, all present will reply “cool”). At the risk of sounding (as usual) like a 21st century Victor Meldrew, I have to ask the hypothetical question “why on earth would I want my computer and my tablet to ring in unison when my phone rings?” After all, if there’s one piece of technology that I’m more likely to have within reach than any other it’s my mobile phone.

Luckily, it’s easy to change the settings so that life goes back to how it used to be – back in the days when you didn’t nearly jump out of your skin every time the phone rang.

So, here’s how to restore sanity on your Mac:

  • Open the “FaceTime” program on the Mac
  • Click on the “FaceTime” option in the top menu (see Figure 1)
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Uncheck the box next to “iPhone Cellular Calls” by clicking on the tick (Figure 2)
  • Close the open dialog box and FaceTime
  • Relax
FaceTime Menu

Figure 1

FaceTime Preferences

Figure 2

And here’s how to do it on your iPad:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Tap on “FaceTime” in the lefthand column
  • On the righthand side, slide the switch against “iPhone Mobile Calls” to the left
  • Close Settings
  • Relax
iPad FaceTime Settings

Figure 3

You might be wondering – as I did – whether this new feature of sending and receiving voice calls to and from iPads and Macs means that you can now create and send text messages from these machines. I looked for this feature as I’ve still not got used to the cramped keyboard on iPhones and would much rather type on something else. Alas, you can’t. There are still only two ways of sending text messages from an iPad:

  • Use the inbuilt “iMessages” app (which only works if you are texting to another Apple device)
  • Get a third-party app (which means your text will appear to have come from a phone number other than your own)

So, all you smarty-pants at Apple, for your next cool trick…

Most smartphones (including iPhones) can serve as “wifi hotspots”

In effect, this means that the phone is acting like your wireless router at home. It can be used to allow you to connect another device to the internet (eg a laptop or a tablet) when a “normal” wifi connection is not available and when the laptop or tablet does not have its own 3G internet connectivity.

Turn on HotspotWhether this will work with your smartphone depends not only on the hardware but also on the deal you have with your mobile provider. If your phone was supplied by your provider then it’s possible they have “crippled” this feature so that it won’t work. On an iPhone, for instance, the option to turn on the personal hotspot connection may be “greyed out”. You can find this option by going to Settings and then Mobile. If yours is greyed out, my advice is to speak to your provider as they may offer a deal whereby it can be turned on.

Assuming that you have Personal Hotspot enabled on an iPhone or on an iPad with cellular access, and you wish to use either of these devices to pass an internet connection to your Macbook Pro or Air, this can now be done without even taking the phone out of your pocket. In other words, you don’t have to turn on the “Personal Hotspot” feature on your iPhone and then connect the computer to it. This new capability is known as “Instant Hotspot”. It’s part of the latest round of updates to Mac computers and devices (called “Continuity“) and it will only work if you have OSX 10.10 or later on your computer (ie the new version, known as Yosemite) and version 8.1 or later of IOS on your iPhone or iPad.

I learned the above from the blurb that Apple and various blog sites told me. So then I tried to test it – just to make sure that I’m not telling you porkies. No joy. If I manually turned on the personal hotspot on my iphone, the Mac recognised it with no problem. To do this, all you need to do is simply click on the Wifi icon on the Mac and there it is – offered as one of the available wifi connections. To try to encourage Instant Hotspot to work I tried turning off my router, just in case the Mac was favouring that over other connection possibilities. Still no joy. Then I checked the versions of the operating systems on both Mac and iPhone. Both were definitely up to date.

After much googling (and not a little profanity), I eventually found a site that tells me that the Mac needs to be 2012 or later for it to work. So, if you’ve got a Mac that’s older than that then maybe reading this blog will save you a bit of frustration – it’s not going to work. Pity that Apple didn’t make that clear in their blurb.

Look for HotspotSo, for the rest of this blog, I’m just winging it and hoping that what I read is true for Macs of 2012 or later vintage. All you have to do is click on your Wifi icon at the top of the screen and your iPhone should appear as an available network. It doesn’t even ask for a password. It doesn’t need a password as it will only work if both phone and computer are logged into the same iCloud account. After a period of inactivity, the connection is automatically dropped. This is to save the battery on the iPhone.

Instant Hotspot

Just have your iPhone reasonably close to the Mac when you look for the Instant Hotspot

It’s worth mentioning here that mobile data allowances aren’t usually very generous in comparison with your home or office broadband, so do be careful. You can always check how much of your download allowance you have used by going to Settings on the iPhone, then take the Mobile option and scroll down to the figure headed “Mobile Data Usage”. This will only be meaningful if you reset the statistics at the beginning of your “billing period”. My understanding – at least with T-mobile – is that the “current billing period” is a calendar month and not the month from one payment date to the next (but I wouldn’t actually stake my life on that being true).

Something I came across more than once when researching this item is that an initial connection to an “instant hotspot” is sometimes difficult. If this happens, the recommendation is to manually turn on the personal hotspot (on the iPhone) and make a connection that way first. Thereafter, it seems that the Instant Hotspot is more likely to work.

I’ll have to take their word for all this as I’ve got absolutely no need (otherwise) to update my perfectly good five year old Mac.

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Computer Support in London
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